I am definitely not perfect… of this I am acutely aware. But if there is one thing I am NOT, it is a liar. I am absolutely honest to a fault. I learned a long time ago that as someone with expressive brown eyes, there really is no point in trying to lie. I had to accept the truth that a poker player I will never be. I know I will never be perfect, but no matter how imperfect I may be, I know I should always strive to be a good person. And good people should not lie.
I have a hard time understanding how some people can lie as easily as breathe. And how confusing to have to keep track of your lies and who you told what so that they don’t catch you. I would have an absolute panic attack trying to keep up with my lies. I would have to create some sort of app for my iphone that kept track and cross-referenced my lies so that I wouldn’t worry about it nonstop.
I have dated people throughout my life who have lied to me continuously and I was too naïve to even think that they were not being honest. Over the past few years I have become much better at figuring out who to trust and who not to trust. As a general rule I chose to just not trust anyone. Admittedly that is not the best attitude to have, but now that we have two teenage boys in our home it is probably a pretty good policy to have.
As a friend of ours who has three teenage daughters told us one night, “They are all liars. Just know if anything comes out of their mouths, it is lies.” And we are learning this is true… in small but upsetting ways.
So why DO they lie? And where in the world do they learn such behavior? Joe and I strive to live honest, open lives that are full of trust and love and communication. So why do we find the kids lying to us about small and insignificant things? And if they lie about something as small as, “I didn’t text you back because I didn’t see your text” (when you saw the read receipt and can see on the phone bill that he was texting friends at the very same time), then what else are they lying about?
I think a lot of this culture of lying is learned behavior. So many parents are unaware of just how much their kids hear – driving in the car talking on the phone or talking in another room while the kids are home. The kids hear one thing being said and then another being said and they process it all… They hear their mom telling a story about their dad that they know isn’t true or they hear their dad lie to a customer about why they can’t meet that afternoon. How can we expect our children to tell the truth if they see us being less than truthful?
The worst is when I hear about parents who encourage lies to the other parents – seemingly as an “I’m on your side” thing, but it is teaching the child that lying is okay. What may seem like an innocent little white lie, “You can call your dad back in the morning… I will tell him you were asleep,” essentially says to your child, “It’s okay to lie to dad if it’s convenient for you to do so.” As a parent, you need to model the behavior that you want to see in your child. They are like puppets and they learn from what they see in you.
One of my friends going through a divorce told me about a talk she had with her four year old that I thought was good. She said that she told her daughter, “If either your father or I ever say to you, ‘Don’t tell your mom’ or ‘Don’t tell your dad,’ then we have done something we know is wrong and the first thing you need to do is tell the other parent.” I think that’s a good rule of thumb for a divorced family. If one parent doesn’t want the other parent to know – where the kids spent the night, who spent the night, how late the kids stay up, what someone said – then it’s probably something the other parent needs to know.
This has been on my mind lately because the other night, my sweet bonus daughter said, “Valerie, you lied to me.” I looked at her baffled because I know that I never lie and asked her what she was talking about. She said, “The other night I asked you if we had any ice cream and you said no.” I made a quick inventory in my brain of everything we have in the freezer and I said with confidence, “We DON’T have any ice cream.” And she said, “Yes we do. Come here.” She led me into the pantry and showed me some peppermint ice cream in the deep freezer that may have been there since the 1900’s (not really, but that’s fun to say).
Joe and I both had a talk with her about how we will not lie. I explained that the ice cream she was talking about was so old it was stuck in the freezer and that if we HAD ice cream I would tell her, “Yes, we have ice cream, but you can’t have any right now,” before I lied and said, “Sorry, we don’t have any.” That is just not how I roll. There are some parents who don’t like to be the “bad guy,” so they would rather lie than just tell their kids “no.”
I think the kids all know that Joe and I are true to our word. As you have heard me say before, our home is a home of open communication and no fear. We want to teach our children that words may lie, but actions will always tell the truth. They will grow up and know whose word to believe based on how they see us live.